Michael Schumacher has given a clinical assessment of his chances of competing next season, in the face of a raft of criticism over his comback performance in 2010. When asked if he would return with the Mercedes squad in 2011, he answered bluntly, “Yes.”
As Schumacher told reporters in Hockeheim today, in advance of this weekend’s race, “[My target] is to win the title. That is my focus and that is what I am here for. Am I perfectly happy with my own performance? That is probably the wrong thing to say. There is an expectation out there, but you have to be realistic that it is probably impossible to meet. To be out three years and start where I finished in a car that doesn’t allow me do it, is unrealistic. I will take my time. I enjoy most of it, this process. There are ups and downs and that is part of motorsport. I am very confident I can achieve it, which is what I am focusing for.”
Schhumacher, as Ross Brawn has said, has always been his own harshest critic. Well…maybe. The fact is, Schumacher has never lacked for critics, some of them no doubt harsher than Schumi himself. But Schumacher is methodical and analytical to a fault, and undoubtedly he has analyzed his performance this season in a harsh light. I expect he has found his comeback learning curve steeper than expected.
That said, he certainly has a realistic idea about his own abilities, and he’s had time to evaluate the performance levels of his closest rivals, including that of, perhaps most significantly, his young team mate Nico Rosberg. Taking that into consideration, he still believes scoring a record eighth title win is a realistic possibility. Odds makers are calling it a long shot, and perhaps they’re right. On the other hand, perhaps they’ve underestimated the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time.
Schumacher made his career by taking on unlikely challenges, from his first F1 race at Spa in 1991 in the lackluster Jordan, to his joining Ferrari in 1996 at a time when race wins for the Scuderia were uncommon to say the least. Perhaps he will close his career by once again proving the skeptics wrong.